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Hunters search for new gun law clarifications as season draws near

WRGB Albany 10/2/2022 Tom Eschen
© Provided by WRGB Albany

In just a few weeks, for the the first time, hunters will be using those firearms under the new gun laws enacted on September 1st.  As we’ve seen in other industries that use firearms, hunters are also still trying to figure out how to define the new laws, concerned a misinterpretation would result in a possible arrest and a felony.

Overall what we're hearing is a lot of confusion, and a lot of fear," Craig Serafini, owner of Upstate Guns and Ammo, says. "These people are afraid that if they step over the line onto an adjacent property from where they're supposed to be, or where they thought they were, or if they were tracking a wounded animal, that they can be charged with felonies."

The DEC says: “The law provides exemptions to allow for lawful hunting in areas otherwise restricted as a result of their listing as ‘sensitive’ or ‘restricted’ locations, but it may affect other activities such as transportation and storage of your hunting guns.”

One of the main focuses of the new gun law featured "sensitive places", the state focusing on building and expanding its definition. Hunters say they'd like more information on how those places are defined. 

MORE: NYS DEC announces start of several hunting seasons

In regards to this, the law states: "A person is guilty of criminal possession of a firearm, rifle or shotgun in a sensitive location when such person possesses a firearm, rifle or shotgun in or upon a sensitive location, and such person knows or reasonably should know such location is a sensitive location." 

Businesses that post signs saying they're a sensitive or restricted location fall under this section of the law, but there are some exceptions to this rule. The New York State DEC has released two Frequently Asked Questions documents in the effort of providing some clarification. 

One of those instances is used as an example: 

Q: On my way to hunting camp, I usually stop to buy groceries and supplies for the trip. The store I shop at is not posted to allow firearms. May I park and shop if I leave my gun locked in my vehicle?

A: Unless otherwise restricted, in publicly accessible parking lots not designated as “Sensitive Locations,” hunters may leave the implement unattended if properly secured in a locked plastic or metal, hard-sided gun case hidden from view.

Serafini says he’s fielded several questions from concerned hunters since the laws were enacted in September, with business also slowing down as hunters have been hesitant to test the waters.

"It really happened in the beginning of September after the bulk of the laws took effect," he says. "That is when we saw the drop off in traffic, because people do not know how to legally come in and continue to make their purchases and follow the rules."

When it comes to enforcement, authorities have continued to say the law is clear, and possession of a weapon in sensitive places is a class A felony. 

Those FAQ documents cover many of the main facets of the law, “sensitive places”, safe storage requirements, travel and more. Click here and here to view. 

The DEC directed CBS6 to those documents when asked for more clarification, and public officials chose not to comment for this story.  

Hunting season for firearms owners starts on October 23rd. 

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